Thursday, February 28, 2013

Sneak Peek at a Leek Tweak

I thought it would be funny to "tweet" only about leeks today - it wasn't - the conceit being that I am inordinately proud of my ability to thoroughly wash a leek (I am). Example: one of the "trending topics" on "twitter" was #AskNickHoult (pictured) so I "tweeted" "Do you have a particular method for washing leeks? #AskNickHoult" Uproarious! So then I went to class and handed out a midterm exam and while the students were thus engaged I took out my copy of the LIFE OF JOHNSON, with which I have been able to spend very little time, and discovered that one of the first things in it concerns Samuel Johnson's father: "A young woman of Leek, in Staffordshire, while he served his apprenticeship there, conceived a violent passion for him... and she actually exhibited one of the very rare instances of dying for love." So that was sad. A happier coincidence: while searching for items to "retweet" about leeks (for example, a news report about some chimpanzees being fed leeks to cure their colds!) I learned that tomorrow is St. David's Day, celebrated in Wales with leeks and daffodils! I remember Jon Langford telling me about St. David's Day last time he was in Oxford. I believe, based on the evidence of this very "blog," he may have even arrived here on St. David's Day! There were daffodils blooming all around and it reminded him of his native land.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Smoke It

February is almost over and I almost forgot to thank Dr. Theresa and Laura Lippman for inspiring my column in this month's BELIEVER magazine. But this tweet from a stranger (embedded below) reminded me! My column contains two new characters: Rye-Head and Baby Mystique. Rye-Head came from reading the OZ books (recommended by Laura Lippman) while drinking rye (also probably recommended, or at least approved in retrospect, by Laura Lippman). He's a combo of Jack Pumpkinhead, the Glass Cat and rye. In an unrelated incident, just before the column was due, Dr. Theresa shouted the striking phrase "baby mystique" at the television for some reason, and that's where the character Baby Mystique came from. (I have used a lot of things Dr. Theresa shouted at the television in my writing, including "Shut up, ugly" and "Fatty's gonna get it.") And now somebody has used "Baby Mystique" as a hashtag, the way the kids love to do on the twitter with their twitterings. I was trying to explain to Dr. Theresa that she had inspired a hashtag, but she doesn't know what a hashtag is, which is just one of the things I love about Dr. Theresa. I said, "Do you know what a hashtag is?" And she said, "No, do you smoke it?" It looks like this: #BabyMystique. Look!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

So Serious!

I keep getting on and off of facebook because who cares? But look! Here's something from there: "blog" buddy Kelly Hogan (photo by Rick Holcomb) back when she was in The Rock*A*Teens, one of my five fave bands of all time. Did I ever tell you about them? Well, I wrote about them once for the New York Times, so shut up.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Jerry Takes the Heat

So I hear from my friend Ward that he lost his family Oscar pool to HIS DOG. One of Ward's kids put dog food on various pieces of paper representing Oscar nominees, and the dog chose with more accuracy. Ward also reminds me that Robert Shaw (pictured) co-hosted the Oscars in 1976 for some reason. Things were crazy back then! We were all insane and nobody knew what was going on. That reminded me of the Jerry Lewis bio where I read about Jerry hosting the Oscars. The broadcast ended 20 minutes early! The producers asked Jerry to stretch. He tried lots of different things and it went on and on. "Before long he'd picked up a trumpet and started to play off-key. NBC finally broke in with some archive material - a sports film about competitive pistol shooting." An Oscar show that ended early, what do you know. The timing mistake was the producer's fault but the press blamed Jerry, "referring to him as 'an egg-laying comedian' and deriding his 'ghastly evening shirt.'" Or as Jerry says in this video that Ward found for me, "I took all the heat."

Beans Are My New Thing

My sister picked the correct winner of the best supporting actor prize, the first award of the evening. It didn't look good for me! But then I came back spectacularly with "best animated short." I picked one called "Paperman," about which I knew nothing, because it sounded like the title of something that would win an award. And I was right! Receiving this welcome news, I called my sister on the phone immediately and screamed "IN YOUR FACE!" But then she turned the tables on me AGAIN with best animated feature. Oh boy! We were in for it! A real roller coaster ride in our annual Oscar-guessing contest. Folks, you're not going to believe this, but we TIED for the second year in a row, 15-15. My little sister is a worthy foe! Most importantly, I discovered that for the second year in a row I was eating beans while watching the Oscars. I didn't plan it. IT JUST HAPPENED. That is going to be my new thing.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Talking Gorilla Martini

You've got to hand it to the Man Who Likes KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS: he always knows which movie frame to grab to illustrate one of his "posts." (You can check out his whole "blog" there on my sidebar of "links.") Here we see the talking gorilla from CONGO contemplating a martini. Now, there is nothing not to love about that. BONUS FUN FACT! Dr. Theresa and I saw CONGO on the big screen in Edinburgh. You know, instead of exploring a historic castle or something.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Even Their Virtues Were Being Burned Away

Glum chat with my sister about the Oscars. Neither of us is feeling it. How will I crush and utterly defeat my little sister in our annual Oscar prediction battle under these pitiful circumstances? I never really enjoy the Oscars. I can't go to your "Oscar party." Watching the Oscars is something that should be done alone, a shameful duty, like pooping. Even Dr. Theresa, who PROMISED to stick by me "for better and for worse" goes in the other room at some (early) point. She usually ends up watching a Steven Seagal movie (for example) while I continue torturing myself. Sensible, I call her! Pre-Oscar depression is a serious disease that afflicts millions of idiots each year. But this is the first year in memory I almost don't feel like watching the Oscars at all, not even out of dull habit. Can I blame the Family Guy, who is hosting the show? I kind of want to. But then again, I don't "like" to see Billy Crystal scampering around and capering about and pulling funny faces like a sad old fool either. When I'm watching the Oscars I'm cringing all the time and looking away in keen embarrassment as they do their little skits and weep openly. I feel sorry for those millionaires! So am I anticipating the frustration I expect to feel when the Family Guy thinks he is making me cringe on purpose? And yet at heart he is nothing but a Billy Crystal. AND HE KNOWS IT! Maybe that's what bugs me: that he thinks "knowing it" makes it better. Is that what he thinks? I have no insights into the workings of his mind. Okay, I do feel pretty safe in saying that he secretly thinks things like this all the time while he looks in the mirror: "At heart I am just an old-fashioned song-and-dance man!" or some equally horrific thought. And maybe he will turn out to be the greatest Oscars host ever. Hmm. That puts me in mind of the revelation that concludes Flannery O'Connor's story "Revelation": Mrs. Turpin sees "a vast swinging bridge" leading to heaven "through a field of living fire," with "battalions of freaks and lunatics shouting and clapping and leaping like frogs" on it. And behind them, some respectable people are going to heaven too, "Yet she could see by their shocked and altered faces that even their virtues were being burned away." I think what Flannery O'Connor was trying to say is that the worst Oscar host ever and the best Oscar host ever WILL BE IDENTICAL. So is it the repressive desublimation getting me down? Do I want a host who is sincerely bad instead of "ironically" bad? Should I speak to a psychiatrist? Where am I?

Friday, February 22, 2013

Glorious Haunch

Got an email from good old Burke telling me I should read Boswell's LIFE OF JOHNSON, which is something I have been meaning to do for, you know, decades. And it's funny, because I was thinking of Samuel Johnson anyway. I recently read (in FOUNDATION by Peter Ackroyd, the same place where I learned about Harold Harefoot) that Queen Anne touched Samuel Johnson when he was a tiny tot and cured him of the scrofula (see also) and he "remained a staunch royalist for the rest of his life." But I have always been bewildered by the array of available editions of the Boswell, and weirdly guilty at the thought of reading an abridgment. In his email, Burke recommended an "abridged Penguin Classics edition that [is] a nice length" and when I stopped by Square Books today, that's just what they had in stock and I took it as a sign. (Burke also said that the LIFE OF JOHNSON reminds him of MASTERS OF ATLANTIS [!].) Just thumbing through the introduction I came across a list of things that Boswell left out. For example, "an occasion when Johnson ate so much of 'a glorious haunch of venison' that it was feared 'he would have died of downright eating, and had not a surgeon been got to administer to him without delay a glister he must have died.'" So I was all like, "What's a glister?" But my WEBSTER'S NEW TWENTIETH CENTURY DICTIONARY OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE, UNABRIDGED, SECOND EDITION from 1974, usually so good with archaic terms, had only the definition I already knew, the sparkly one. With a little of my expert "googling," however, I found that it must be an alternate spelling of "clyster"... an old word for enema. I'm sorry! I didn't know the "blog" was going to go in that direction (again!) when I started this "post"! I didn't even know what a clyster was when I started this "post"! Well now I've ruined everything.

Overlords and Whatnot

McNeil sent me one of those nine-minute youtube videos he loves to send me, where a hooded figure talks about "our criminal overlords" and how "everything we believe is a great big lie" but then this particular guy says something surprising: "I shut up and keep it to myself." People are intrigued by his silence! So then they beg him to tell them about our criminal overlords and whatnot, he says. I made it almost three minutes in. (See also. And also.)

Thursday, February 21, 2013

King Harold Harefoot

I have just been reading about an 11th-century king of England named Harold Harefoot. King Harold Harefoot! He is not a storybook character, HE WAS REAL. King Harold Harefoot.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Tainted Love Tuesdays

I just happened to notice that the Lifetime Movie Network is running something called "Tainted Love Tuesdays." Tainted Love Tuesdays! Tainted Love Tuesdays.

Saturday, February 16, 2013


We watched DUNE. A monster shoots planets out of its butt! There are people called "Fremen," which is not pronounced "Freemen" as you might expect, but sounds more like "Frimmin," a word Jerry Lewis might say. In fact I fantasized that when we met the Frimmin, Jerry Lewis might be playing their king. You know I have always wanted David Lynch to put Jerry in a movie. Yes, I imagined Jerry going around saying, "I'm king of the FRIMMin!" (See also.) It didn't happen. I guess my favorite part was when - spoiler alert! (do I really need to give you a spoiler alert for a movie from 1984 [see also]?) - this weird little kid gets to defeat the bad guy at the end. She uses a pointy silver finger gadget (seen here) to pop him like a balloon, which he greatly resembles. It's exhilarating, a big goof, and the kid actor seems to be having a blast!

Pith Helmet

I was looking through the New York Times archives for articles about Charles Portis and I came across the snippy, dismissive review they printed when MASTERS OF ATLANTIS came out. And I thought, "What sort of person could dislike MASTERS OF ATLANTIS so much?" So I "googled" this reviewer up and found his "web" site on which he models a pith helmet, and offers "magical tours" of Egypt, and says that "contemporary cosmology" owes much to tarot, and presents an "open letter" to an archaeology magazine that has dared to question the existence of Atlantis (!), and provides hints of some overarching "lost civilization theory," and refers to "the upcoming Age of Aquarius," and you know how when you start "googling" something, "google" will automatically try to finish typing the search term for you? Well, "google" primarily associates the reviewer with Joe Rogan, the comedian and actor who, as we have previously learned from the "internet," has "adventures" in "invisible realms." So what I am saying is that the New York Times got a character from MASTERS OF ATLANTIS to review MASTERS OF ATLANTIS, which must have seemed like a cute idea, but come on, New York Times.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Traipsing Through the Forest at Night

Hey my brother-in-law David has informed me about a new kind of owl! Well, I am sure the owl has been around awhile, but people have just noticed it and put it on a big list of owls somewhere. According to the article, an ornithologist discovered the owl "while traipsing through the forest at night," which seems like a curious way to put it. But that's what it says! I am reminded of the first sentence of Padgett Powell's novel MRS. HOLLINGSWORTH'S MEN: "Mrs. Hollingsworth likes to traipse." Hey speaking of sentences and big lists of owls you know I have to tell you whenever a book has an owl in it, and now that I am rereading TRUE GRIT for class, I see this: "They had ridden the 'hoot-owl trail' and tasted the fruits of evil and now justice had caught up with them to demand payment." Portis's narrator, Mattie Ross, tends to put her quotation marks around what she considers vernacular phrases, but I am not familiar with the "hoot-owl trail," though its meaning seems clear enough.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


Hey you know whenever I am having a video conference with the guys from ADVENTURE TIME and one of my cats jumps on my lap Kent will take a photo of it and I will have to show it to you! Kent says this cat (Pan by name) looks like one of the aliens from ATTACK THE BLOCK. So then later today I had class with my grad students at City Grocery Bar. We were discussing the last half of the Charles Schulz bio we read and someone (McKay by name) noted that TODAY is the thirteenth anniversary of Charles Schulz's death on FEBRUARY THIRTEENTH 2013! We raised a glass to "Sparky."

Sunday, February 10, 2013

With Creamed Cabbage Thou Must Fill My Crown

Hey don't you want to hear about the old cookbook I was reading because I was trying to remember the word "gremolata"? (It didn't help.) Naturally I wandered over to gelatin. According to this cookbook, "Jellied Ginger Ale Cubes" make a terrific salad garnish! This cookbook also tells you how to have a party for Washington's birthday. "Fill tiny blue and silver tri-cornered hats with red gumdrops and set these at each plate." For Lincoln's birthday serve "buttered steamed rice," plum pie, and the majestic (I assume) "Crown of Frankfurters"! Ingredients: 20 frankfurters and 2 cups cooked sauerkraut. That's all! Although you can "Fill crown with stuffing, creamed cabbage, creamed cauliflower or Potato Balls instead of sauerkraut." Ha ha, Potato Balls, the capital letters make it funny. This is the CULINARY ARTS INSTITUTE ENCYCLOPEDIC COOKBOOK: DELUXE EDITION from 1976, "newly revised," though it was first published in 1948, and reads that way. I also found one of my brother's old report cards folded up (hidden?) inside!

Friday, February 08, 2013

"Blog"trospective 10: Gelatin

So I just read three books with Jell-O in them: so what? It would be dumb to make a "blog"trospective called "Books with Jell-O in Them" just because our big, lush "blog"trospective about books with owls in them is so enormously popular and all anyone ever talks about ever all the time. Once I read three books in a row with Pernod in them, and that went nowhere. But by opening up the field a little, there may be enough material here for a true "blog"trospective worthy of ranking alongside the rest of them, which nobody cares about. For example, my WEBSTER'S NEW TWENTIETH CENTURY DICTIONARY OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE, UNABRIDGED, SECOND EDITION from 1974 lists "jellies made with gelatine" (they add the extra e 'cuz they're fancy!) as the second-greatest definition of "gelatin." So anyway, enjoy this "blog"trospective about gelatin and shut up. agarita bush; fruits of make jelly---attracts bigfoot---bags of arrive---Canadian sitcom inspires forum on---certainty of the jelly factory, the---color of rubies in the setting sun, the---contributes to Dr. Theresa's love of toast---cow's blood as---cruddy bloud---Currence, John, takes a culinary blowtorch to some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches---dandy in aspic, a---drinking wine from Jell-O glasses---elves made of---EnerGel---enough for 10,000 pieces of toast---fails to redeem book---Farmer's Daughter Salty Dog Marmalade---fig preserves---freed from---ham hock and red pepper jelly on toast---Hope, Bob; rewards mistress with the gift of jam---in GIDGET---in Martha Washington cake---in PORTNOY'S COMPLAINT---in two Philip Roth novels---in works of Lucia Berlin---jam on pancakes---jellied ginger ale cubes---jelly-like substances in the works of Osamu Dazai and Walt Whitman---Kerouac uses "jello" as a verb---Lord Grimthorpe's last words invoke---Lucky Charms marshmallows contain gelatin made with pork---Martin, Dean; relationship of song stylings to---McNeil receives a free lemon jelly donut---Mickey Mouse stares at his reflection in some Jell-O---Mrs. Abington's better than Mrs. Thrale's---oils up your joints---picking up Jell-O cubes with fingers---plovers' eggs set like large opals in aspic jelly---poisoned---proponent of aspic given a diamond by the Tsar---puts one in mind of a character name from ANIMAL HOUSE---quivering in a spoon---red pepper jelly---robot standing in aspic---salamander eggs resemble---some varieties of might possibly on occasion be classified as "sweetmeats"---tartness of---tearful separation from---terrible flying bags of---used as a metaphor by George Kennedy---water the color of "lime jello"---Welles, Orson; has eyes like side-orders of---woman made of, a.


Near the end of VISIONS OF GERARD, Jack Kerouac refers to the earth as "this hairball" - wow! That's pretty world-weary. Even more world-weary than when Jerry Lewis called the world a "big round put-on" - and especially interesting considering how often Kerouac wrote about his cats. Or maybe not. I can no longer tell what's interesting.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Quivering and Undelivered

I knew you'd want me to tell you if there were any other descriptions of green Jell-O in THE DOG OF THE SOUTH by Charles Portis: "The doctor was still holding the green jello in his spoon, quivering and undelivered." That's at the top of the page. At the bottom of the same page: "I was heavy and sodden with jello." And you know, it occurs to me in the last "post" I also said I was reading VISIONS OF GERARD "for fun." That's a weird thing to say! Because the subject matter of VISIONS OF GERARD is among the gloomiest imaginable. What I meant was that I am rereading THE DOG OF THE SOUTH for class and VISIONS OF GERARD on my own time, but obviously THE DOG OF THE SOUTH is a lot more actual fun. It is all the fun.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Bookmarkin'! with Jack Pendarvis

Welcome once more to "Bookmarkin'! with Jack Pendarvis." It has been almost four years. Sorry! Before we get to bookmarks I want to say that THE DOG OF THE SOUTH by Charles Portis has green Jell-O in it, just like GIDGET: "lime jello - transparent, no bits of fruit in suspension - and peanut-butter cookies with corrugations on top where a fork had been lightly pressed into them. That was our lunch." And I might add that VISIONS OF GERARD by Jack Kerouac, which I am reading for fun, uses "jello" as a VERB. A big coincidence! So Portis and Kerouac make a common noun (or verb) out of it, while only Frederick Kohner, author of GIDGET, bothers to correctly pay tribute to the brand name. Who cares? THE DOG OF THE SOUTH makes me laugh on every single page, instances of which I have been keeping selfishly from you. But perversely I WILL tell you that it has an owl in it - a metaphorical owl again. The narrator describes himself: "my small pointed teeth and my small owl beak and my small gray eyes, mere slits but prodigies of light-gathering and resolving power." And finally, the bookmark: I grabbed by coincidence my glossy photo of M. Emmet Walsh, who not only has a name like that of a Portis character - he LOOKS like a Portis character: specifically Dr. Reo Symes from THE DOG OF THE SOUTH, who, speaking of things that make me laugh, says this in the passage I just read, "The kind of people I know don't have barbecues, Mama. They stand up alone at night in small rooms and eat cold weenies." But I noticed for the first time there is something confrontational about the glare of M. Emmet Walsh, which I see each time I open the book. So a glossy picture of M. Emmett Walsh makes a weird bookmark! That's my advice. This has been "Bookmarkin'! with Jack Pendarvis."

Saturday, February 02, 2013

Return of the Schnapps Owl

"I bet you was drunk as a hoot-owl at 15, 14 - You're not the man I married but dammit the reason for that is because you were puttin' up a front when I married you, crook." So VISIONS OF GERARD by Jack Kerouac goes on our definitive and unnecessary list of books with owls in them, not a literal owl, but sometimes it's not a literal owl, get over it. And once again the owl is drunk, as in (maybe) the phrase "sore as a boiled owl" I was puzzling over not too long ago. I am not sure where the association of owls with drunkenness comes from, nor am I energetic enough to find out, but I do suddenly recall learning from Sara Gran of a true-life police report about an owl drunk on schnapps. Anecdotal evidence at best! I have not seen the statistics.

Embarrassment of the Hat Dog

Yes, uh-huh, why not, let's continue our examination of the Olsen twins music video of which I was subjected to repeat viewings on a huge wall of monitors as I stood in a line at a Las Vegas check-in counter in 1994. First, we'll review what we have learned so far. 1) I described the video from painful memory. 2) I found the actual video on the "internet," and learned that my memory had failed me in several respects. For example, the dog was not wearing a Sherlock Holmes hat. And now I receive an email from my friend Ward, who was in that line with me in 1994. Ward writes: "It's so weird. I thought your earlier description of the video was dead on, especially about the dog. In my mind he was wearing not only a Sherlock Holmes hat, but also a cape and I could've sworn he had a big pipe in his mouth, too. When they finally do have the hat on the dog near the end of the video it's so pathetic. You can tell the director probably told the wardrobe person to get a Sherlock Holmes hat, but they couldn't find one so they just cut up a couple of cheap black caps and sewed them together. You can tell the dog is completely embarrassed." (See also.) So in conclusion, the dog WAS wearing a makeshift Sherlock Holmes hat after all, something I failed to notice in my reexamination, or maybe I didn't make it to the end of the video. I hope this clears everything up. And now goodbye forever.

Friday, February 01, 2013

My Heartfelt Apologies to the Olsen Twins

I found the video that was repeated over and over and over and over as Ward and I waited in a long, slow line to check into the MGM Grand in 1994. Please "click" here to see it. Turns out my memory is not so good. Allow me to correct some misstatements from the previous "post": 1) At no point (I think) do the Olsen twins employ "huge magnifying glasses," though one of them looks through a microscope. 2) The dog in the video is a beagle, not a bloodhound as I erroneously reported. 3) Said beagle is not wearing a Sherlock Holmes hat. He IS, however, doing double takes in the exact manner I indicated. But this is not the time to pat myself on the back. 4) The Olsen twins are proclaiming themselves to be "Super duper snoopers," NOT "Super DOOPER pooper TROOPERS." I hedged my bets on that one a little bit by calling it a paraphrase, but there is no excuse for such misrepresentation. 5) The piece does not employ the traditional rhythms of the march, as I may have implied. Still, I haven't seen it since 1994, so I think it did a formidable job of burning itself into my brain. Nevertheless, the "blog" regrets the errors. I hope it is not impolite to wonder how the bass player felt when he was required to lay down such a funky line at about 11 seconds in.

Foster Brooks Robot Gives My Life Meaning

I am sure you recall the robot version of Foster Brooks and how justifiably proud I was to be the first person ever to present a photograph of the Foster Brooks robot on the "internet." Well, my friend Ward McCarthy has found someone's home movies of the MGM Grand Hotel from 1995, and about halfway in you will get a big sample of the Foster Brooks robot, who is even more disturbing than I recalled, with his one rubbery dead hand and his other hand fitfully twitching at the punch lines of his off-color remarks. He is not to be confused with the Frank Morgan robot (!) who appears earlier in the clip. Ward and I stayed in the MGM Grand in 1994 when we were covering the Elvis Impersonator Convention, so this clip brings back a lot of memories - awful, awful memories. For example, see that huge wall of video screens behind the check-in counter? When Ward and I were standing in line interminably, they kept repeating a music video of the Olsen twins (at the time still tiny children) dancing around with huge magnifying glasses, pretending to be detectives, and there were lots of shots of a bloodhound in a Sherlock Holmes hat (or so I recall) doing editorially enhanced double takes and the lyrics of the song were something like "Super DOOPER pooper TROOPERS!" I paraphrase. But the rhythms of their hellish march went on and on forever, kind of like this "post." Because I will now state that the youtube video of the Foster Brooks robot was "posted" in late 2009, and therefore I am STILL the champion of presenting photographic evidence of the Foster Brooks robot earlier than anyone else on the "internet." In conclusion, I noted on the youtube sidebar of "related videos" that there was a clip of Foster Brooks performing at the dedication of Gerald Ford's presidential library - say what! His whole act was pretending to be drunk, and even without Mrs. Ford's well-publicized alcoholism, and her heroic efforts at raising awareness and helping people with substance abuse problems, Foster Brooks seems like a weird choice for ANYBODY's presidential library dedication. I watched about 20 seconds of it, just enough to confirm that he's pretending to be drunk. Yep.